June 2nd, 2011
03:04 PM ET
Is America ready for a Mormon president?
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) - Mitt Romney’s campaign team knows that his Mormon faith scared off Republican voters the last time he ran for president.
But they believe a lot has changed in the last four years.
For starters, Romney is now much better known. The former Massachusetts governor campaigned hard in the 2008 primaries – even addressing his Mormonism head-on in a major speech — and has stayed in the public eye since, popping up on late-night talk shows and on cable news channels.
Romney’s Mormonism, the thinking goes, is less exotic than it was four years ago because the candidate is more familiar.
Plus, unlike in 2008, there’s a Democrat in the White House for Republican voters to unite against. The Romney camp hopes the Obama factor will boost support for a battle-tested candidate who’s shown he can raise the hundreds of millions of dollars White House bids require, regardless of the candidate’s religious affiliation.
And unlike the 2008 Republican primaries, when George W. Bush was in the White House and debate over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan loomed large, next year’s elections are poised to hang on the economy. Not a bad time, maybe, for a guy with a Harvard MBA and a career spent turning around financially troubled companies and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“The country’s really in a tough situation — the economy’s in a bad place and so people suddenly think that a guy with Mitt Romney’s capacity and experience looks a lot more attractive than he did four years ago,” says Mark DeMoss, a senior adviser to Romney’s campaign, which launched Thursday.
“That makes his faith much less of an issue than it was four years ago,” says DeMoss, who is tasked with helping Romney woo evangelical voters, a huge chunk of the GOP base and a constituency that’s historically been wary of Mormonism.
Whether DeMoss is right may make the difference in whether Romney, the current Republican frontrunner based on polls and fundraising, can actually win the Republican nomination and, ultimately, the White House.
But Romney may not be the only Mormon running for president. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is seriously flirting with a presidential bid.
Huntsman, Obama’s former ambassador to China, recently took a five-day swing through New Hampshire, site of the first-in-the-nation Republican primary, and has hired staff in South Carolina, another key primary state.
The prospect of a Huntsman campaign means the nation could see an unprecedented test of whether the GOP — and, perhaps, the rest of the country — is ready for a Mormon president in an era when candidates’ religious beliefs have become weighty campaign issues.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is officially known, certainly seems eager for Mormonism to be less an issue in the presidential race than it was for Romney in 2008
“Recent media coverage seems to lean toward the conclusion that among many Americans, faith will be less of an issue in this election than it was in 2008,” church spokesman Michael Purdy said in a statement to CNN. “But it’s really for others to speculate on this.”
Public opinion polls suggest a lingering bias against Mormon candidates. A survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center found that a quarter of American adults admit to being less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate for president.
The survey found that resistance to Mormon candidates was even higher among two groups: liberal Democrats and evangelicals, who overwhelmingly vote Republican. One in three white evangelicals said they were less likely to support a Mormon candidate.
That creates a stiff headwind for Romney and Huntsman, given evangelicals’ primary power. In 2008, evangelicals accounted for 60 percent of Republican voters in Iowa, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, and in South Carolina, whose primaries come hard on the heels of New Hampshire’s.
In 2008, Romney’s Mormonism “was a real factor in Iowa and South Carolina that predisposed many potential voters to never to consider Romney or hear his message,” said Gary Marx, who directed conservative outreach for Romney the last time he ran.
That year, Romney placed second in Iowa and fourth in South Carolina behind then-frontrunner Mike Huckabee – a Baptist preacher who won major evangelical support.
Though Mormons consider themselves to be Christians, many evangelicals consider the Latter-day Saints to be a cult.
Evangelicals object to the Mormon belief that the Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God and to such Mormon practices as proxy baptisms for the dead. Evangelicals and Mormons also compete for converts.
Many evangelical leaders have discouraged their followers from translating such differences into opposition to Mormon candidates. But that message isn’t always heeded.
“I don’t think it’s much of an issue among the leadership in evangelical circles,” Michael Farris, an influential evangelical activist, says of Mormon candidates. “But I don’t know if that is always true at the grassroots level.”
Richard Land, who directs public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest evangelical denomination, says evangelicals could coalesce around Romney but that the conditions would have to be just right.
“If Southern Baptists have a choice between an evangelical candidate, a Catholic and a Mormon and all three appear to be equally conservative and equally likely to beat Barack Obama, they’ll vote for the evangelical,” says Land, who has informally advised Romney on how to deal with his faith on the campaign trail.
“If there’s no such evangelical [in the] race, they’ll vote for the Catholic,” he says, “But if there’s no other candidate who’s likely to beat Obama, they’ll vote for the Mormon.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, an evangelical, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Catholic, are running for the GOP nomination.
Beyond theological challenges, conservative activists like Land and Farris say Romney faces skepticism among religious conservatives because he once supported abortion rights and signed a healthcare law in Massachusetts that critics say represented a dramatic government overreach.
But those close to Romney argue that Huckabee’s decision not to enter the 2012 race creates an opportunity for Romney to pick up more evangelical support. Or, they say, it could wind up splitting evangelical voters among multiple primary candidates, making evangelicals a less potent force.
DeMoss, a Christian public relations executive who also helped Romney with evangelical outreach in 2008, says one of the victories from the last campaign was that no big-name evangelical came out against Romney over his Mormonism. This time, DeMoss is working to get some evangelical leaders to go a step further and publicly support Romney.
After Romney’s 2008 defeat, one nationally known evangelical leader privately told DeMoss that he’d voted for Romney in the primaries.
“I remember thinking, it would have been nice if somebody else knew that,” says DeMoss, who believes such revelations would have made more evangelicals comfortable supporting a Mormon candidate.
Huntsman’s entry into the presidential race could make Mormonism less of an issue if it has a mainstreaming effect. But the two candidates’ religious affiliations could play out quite differently.
Romney has long been active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), having occupied Mormon leadership positions like bishop (the rough equivalent of a lay pastor) and stake president (someone who oversees groups of Mormon congregations).
“I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it,” Romney said in a December 2007 speech in which he addressed his Mormonism. “My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.”
Huntsman, like Romney, spent two years abroad as a Mormon missionary but has kept some distance from the LDS church. As governor of Utah, he loosened liquor laws that had been inspired by Mormon orthodoxy and broke with his church in signing a law allowing civil unions for gay couples.
In a recent television interview, Huntsman affirmed his Mormon faith but added that Mormonism is “a very diverse and heterogeneous cross-section of people. ... I probably add to that diversity somewhat.”
A Huntsman adviser who often deals with the media declined to respond to requests for comment.
Matthew Bowman, an editor at a Mormon studies journal called Dialogue, says Huntsman hails from a slightly younger generation of Mormons who are less defensive about their Mormonism.
“Huntsman is a Mormon who thinks of his faith not as something that separates him from American culture or as something he has to defend or explain away, which is what Romney did,” says Bowman. “Romney is always hyperaware of his Mormonism.”
That means Huntsman may face fewer questions about his Mormonism should he run.
The LDS church, for its part, says its policy is to steer clear of electoral politics. Some church observers say the controversy the church generated by supporting California’s 2008 gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, exacerbated its political reticence.
At the same time, the church has capitalized on increased attention paid to Mormonism - provoked by everything from Romney’s 2008 campaign to the current hit Broadway musical, “Book of Mormon” - with a succession of public awareness campaigns.
The church website Mormon.org, for example, was recently revamped with an eye toward educating non-Mormons about the religion. The site features video profiles of Mormons from different walks of life.
“The message of these ads is that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are your friends and neighbors,” says Purdy, the church spokesman. “We are professionals and tradespeople, artists and teachers and everything in between.”
Put another way, the message is that Mormons are normal, everyday Americans.
With the Republican primary race finally starting in earnest, the nation is about get a major glimpse into whether GOP voters agree.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
I know many ex-Mormons and they all say that they have been shunned by their family , friends , and LDS people to some degree or another. IT is a bare-faced LIE if Mormons say that isnt true.
I work with four x mormons. That isn't true for any of them. Their mormon family and friends are still close in each case. Does that make me a liar? ...Or does that just make you ignorant?
Mormons have an exception to everything. If one of their living so called "prophets" make a statement that contradicts what one of their leaders said in the past THEN the current "prophets" word takes precedent.. What they dont get is that GOD is not going to contradict HIMSELF by saying two different conflicting statements. Mormons have contradictions throughout their Doctrine . Their "god" is always changing his mind and changing Doctrine ..
Unlike the Christian god that wouldn't ever change his mind or doctrine... except for cursing the world for eating an apple... except for telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, but then stopping him... and except for killing nearly all life on Earth and then because of the guilt says I'll never to do that ever again - in exactly that way... and except for deciding that 2 of himself (Father and Spirit) weren't enough any more, and creating/fathering/spiriting as Son... and except for forgiving all sin, when "In the beginning" he had cursed the universe for the eating of an apple, by having his creation torture and kill his only begotten Son... and except for having to repeat himself about the unchanging eternal rules, to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Saul/Paul, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Bahá'u'lláh, David Koresh, and a whole host of others...
and except for ...
and except for...
For something as important as the presidency, It shouldn't matter what religion the candidate is. Leave your personal opinions about someone's religion at home when you vote this election.
Major error in one part fo the report that says Huntsman "broke with his church in signing a law allowing civil unions for gay couples." (1) He signed no such law; he stated his support for such a law. (2) His church (the LDS Church) does not oppose civil unions, at least limited ones (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705260852/LDS-official-lauds-work-for-Californias-Prop-8.html?pg=2 : "in general, the church 'does not oppose civil unions or domestic partnerships,' that involve benefits like health insurance and property rights").
Mormons say they are Christians BUT they REJECT anybody who doesnt go to the LDS church.. Even if they go to a Christian church they reject them. Their friends ,family , and the LDS reject them , shun them and isolate them in an attempt to drive them back to the LDS life. Clearly a CULT tactic.
Absolutely not true. I have many non & former-LDS friends. My oldest son does not consider himself a believer. We do not shun him. In fact, he's one of my best friends. Though some people may (through borken hearts or anger) behave differently, shunning of the sort indicated is absolutely not a standard or recommended response. (By the way, I'm an LDS bishop familiar with life in the Church in many parts of the country and the world, so I'm not just speaking from experience in my local neighborhood.)
Explain to me how we could be ready for an African American, Muslim President but not a Mormon. I'm missing the connection...
The connection you are missing is the Muslim one. Because it doesn't exist.
I'm so confused.
Please attend Happy Hour at 4PM today, at the pool on the main deck. We all would like to meet each other, and get to know our large and growing group.
Sure, America's ready for a Mormon president. Just not THAT Mormon.
Religion should not be a question of relavence in the Presidency. Could be christian, catholic, jewish, or athiest ... the state does not have a religious qualification for holding the office.
I'd vote for a Rastafarian if I thought he/she would do a good job.
Anything other than Christian, should be questioned. Mormons are not Christians. They have perverted Christ
Adelina – So what? His religion wouldn't affect his ability to execute the Office of the President. I'm comforted by the idea that he has some kind of spirituality as a part of his life. I'm also comforted by the fact that he doesn't make a big show of it like other Presidents or would-be presidents have.
The United States dealt with the Catholic John F Kennedy, and did not collapse. I have never heard anyone opine that John McCaine lost the e lection because of his VP partner, the Jewish Lieberman. I believe firmly that Barack Obama is Christian like all previous presidents save JFK. I am not aware that a single one of these leaders placed his allegiance to his religion above that to his office and to the United States. Romney, as governor, does not seem to have tried to impose Mormon doctrine on Massachusetts. On the other hand, the virulent postings here reveal a side of American politics that is thoroughly depressing. Equally offensive is the very headline of this article, which virtually invites bigots to come out of the woodwork and expose their benighted prejudice. CNN has nothing to be proud of in connection with this "poll".
As long as somebody doesn't harm, kill or hurt me, he can tell me any nonsense. Maybe I go deaf.
OH YES WE ARE, YOU JACKWAGON!!! Latter Day Saints certainly are Christians. We believe in Jesus Christ and focus on his ressurection. Learn about something, get the facts before you give your prejudiced, biased, NASTY opinions.
Just say no to atheists and liberals. Lock them up and throw away the key
You say that you believe in the resurrection but you also believe that your God was once a man came to earth and have physical relations with Mary. That Jesus and Lucifer are truly brothers. Get YOUR facts straight and learn your history.
You two both seem to accept your doctrine with no question. Try thinking about your faith and making your own decisions about what is and isn't true. Then you can be a good christian with a functioning brain, like I am.
Wow you guys are all idiots. If you believe in something as stupid as a supernatural being then you might want to get your head checked out.
Spiffy, let's not add another issue to this comment. If you wan't to insult religion in general, leave your own comment. May god bless you. He cares for you no matter your beliefs.
Not according to the bible. I have denied the holy spirit. I am going to hell no matter what I do. Even if I cure cancer I am going to hell.
momofbron you are not Christians. You have perverted Christ and simply put you are a cult that is less than 200 years old. Simply put your beliefs are disgusting and offensive to real Christians.
in addition mormons are a disease
Just so everyone is aware, I believe Adelina has an intellectual age of a 5 year old. For those of you who feel that LDS doctrine is at odds with Christian doctrine, first learn what LDS doctrine is, then read the Bible (something few on this board probably do) then you will realize that LDS doctrine is in line with Christ's teaching perfectly. Sure, some things have been revealed by the prophets, but for one, you tell me that how Christ was conceived, and the answer through the Holy Ghost makes no sense since the Holy Ghost has no body and Mary would need a Y-chromosome.
Just say NO to a MO for Pres.
Every Adelina on this page is a fake.
Perhaps it is time for America to wake up. From my perspective, Mr. Romney's faith is precisely what America needs. I am not Mormon by faith, but I previously owned a business n Provo, Utah. That experience taught me to appreciate the Mormon faith, where there is a great emphasis on integrity. Family values are not just fodder for speeches, it is a way of life. It is that integrity which has been absent from leadership for many decades, and look at where it is gotten us... I am persuaded that Mr. Romney possesses the traits that are critical to turn the nation around. The upcoming election should be about integrity, followed by capability. In both measures, faith is not an issue, nor should it be.
I think, you have a false or faked edition of the Bible. Do you belong to any cult?
I mean Adelina (the real one)!
There appears to be fake Adelinas running around. Rainer, do you have one?
Above Adelina is a fake. She no longer uses that name.
Before answering this question you need to know the truth about Mormonism...............
The Mormon religion (Mormonism), whose followers are known as Mormons and Latter Day Saints (LDS), was founded less than two hundred years ago by a man named Joseph Smith. He claimed to have received a personal visit from God the Father and Jesus Christ who told him that all churches and their creeds were an abomination. Joseph Smith then set out to begin a brand-new religion that claims to be the “only true church on earth.” The problem with Mormonism is that it contradicts, modifies, and expands on the Bible. Christians have no reason to believe that the Bible is not true and adequate. To truly believe in and trust God means to believe in His Word, and all Scripture is inspired by God, which means it comes from Him (2 Timothy 3:16).
Mormons believe that there are in fact four sources of divinely inspired words, not just one: 1) The Bible “as far as it is translated correctly.” Which verses are considered incorrectly translated is not always made clear. 2) The Book of Mormon, which was “translated” by Smith and published in 1830. Smith claimed it is the “most correct book” on earth and that a person can get closer to God by following its precepts “than by any other book.” 3) The Doctrine and Covenants, containing a collection of modern revelations regarding the “Church of Jesus Christ as it has been restored.” 4) The Pearl of the Great Price, which is considered by Mormons to “clarify” doctrines and teachings that were lost from the Bible and adds its own information about the earth's creation.
Mormons believe the following about God: He has not always been the Supreme Being of the universe, but attained that status through righteous living and persistent effort. They believe God the Father has a “body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.” Though abandoned by modern Mormon leaders, Brigham Young taught that Adam actually was God and the father of Jesus Christ. In contrast, Christians know this about God: there is only one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6-8), He always has existed and always will exist (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17), and He was not created but is the Creator (Genesis 1; Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 37:16). He is perfect, and no one else is equal to Him (Psalm 86:8; Isaiah 40:25). God the Father is not a man, nor was He ever (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Hosea 11:9). He is Spirit (John 4:24), and Spirit is not made of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39).
Mormons believe that there are different levels or kingdoms in the afterlife: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, the telestial kingdom, and outer darkness. Where mankind will end up depends on what they believe and do in this life. In contrast, the Bible tells us that after death, we go to heaven or hell based on whether or not we had faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. To be absent from our bodies means, as believers, we are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Unbelievers are sent to hell or the place of the dead (Luke 16:22-23). When Jesus comes the second time, we will receive new bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). There will be a new heaven and new earth for believers (Revelation 21:1), and unbelievers will be thrown into an everlasting lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). There is no second chance for redemption after death (Hebrews 9:27).
Mormon leaders have taught that Jesus’ incarnation was the result of a physical relationship between God the Father and Mary. Mormons believe Jesus is a god, but that any human can also become a god. Mormonism teaches that salvation can be earned by a combination of faith and good works. Contrary to this, Christians historically have taught that no one can achieve the status of God—only He is holy (1 Samuel 2:2). We can only be made holy in God's sight through faith in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). Jesus is the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), is the only one ever to have lived a sinless, blameless life, and now has the highest place of honor in heaven (Hebrews 7:26). Jesus and God are one in essence, Jesus being the only One existing before physical birth (John 1:1-8; 8:56). Jesus gave Himself to us as a sacrifice, God raised Him from the dead, and one day everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:6-11). Jesus tells us it is impossible to get to heaven by our own works and that only by faith in Him is it possible (Matthew 19:26). We all deserve eternal punishment for our sins, but God's infinite love and grace have allowed us a way out. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Clearly, there is only one way to receive salvation and that is to know God and His Son, Jesus (John 17:3). It is not done by works, but by faith (Romans 1:17; 3:28). We can receive this gift no matter who we are or what we have done (Romans 3:22). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Although Mormons are usually friendly, loving, and kind people, they are deceived by a false religion that distorts the nature of God, the Person of Jesus Christ, and the means of salvation.
Great post. Clearly Mormons are going to hell.
Above Adelina is a fake.
So according to your comments, all you have to do is have faith in Jesus Christ, and you can do what ever you want (cheat, steal, lie, kill?) as far as works are concerned and you will be saved because of your faith.
Friend is right, there are a number of fake Adelinas. Thank you Friend
Clearly we are not going to Hell.
1) Christ is the only begotten on the Father, what exactly does that mean? Begotten implies a physical creation. And why is it so outrageous to think that Christ received his Physical attributes from God, because it is impossible for Christ to get a Y-chromosome from Mary, and the Bible tells us the Joseph had not yet known his wife so what else is your explanation?
2) We most certainly believe in Heaven and Hell, we just believe that God is a just being and will judge us according to our actions, and some are clearly more faithful than others wouldn't you agree?
3) Yes we believe that God has a body. But wait is Christ God and doesn't he have a body? Read the Bible and you know that Christ and his Father are 2 distinct individuals, so there are 2 Gods at least. And were does it state specifically that we cannot be rewarded with godhood if we merit it?
Thank GOD for His grace,
Good that you see the deception/delusion of Joseph Smith. Now apply the same standards to Paul of Tarsus, Moses and the rest of the 'prophets'. They were the Joseph Smiths of their day.
Is like disneyworld will all these kingdoms!!
I started to like Mormonism after seeing a bunch of posts saying negative things about it. It reminds me about many unbelievers that rejected Jesus, prophets and apostles. You see, I have an issue with the so call Christians, they want me to believe that God is invisible and that God, Jesus Christs and the Holy Ghost are one..First, let me tell you that after I die and get resurrected, I want to worship and visible God, one that I can see and contemplate. When Jesus Christ resurrected he went up to heaven visible and will come back as human saw Him leaves, even waving His hand. Well, where is the Invisible god that you christians believes in? Two, its pretty scary for me to think that three powerful beings are embedded in one person. There my friend, you are limiting your god. Let me ask you. How a god that is one in three can be in three different places at the same time? I mean, I go back to the baptism of Jesus Christ where God spoke and His voice was heard from above, Jesus Christ was being baptized on earth and the Holy Ghost was coming down as a dove...well, you so call Christians don't make sense sometimes. I happen to believe the Bible to be inspired by God, but were men that wrote it, were men that put it together and I also happen to believe that there were precious parts taking out of it.
I don't care what a man's religion is ... all I care about is the jobe he will do. If Romney can do for the United States what the Morman Church did for itself; I am all for it. From what I understand, The Mormon Church does not owe a dime to anyone.
Harvey don't be confused. Christ must be up front and center in our nation and leaders.
Exactly what is cultish behavior? Having been a member for 30 years I have yet to see any what I would call cultish behavior. I have seen teaching, charity, organization, but nothing cultish. We are open to all. I have a hard time believing the commentor was a member.
I see false "Adelinas" on this page. The original Christian Adelina will change the name.
Adel I think you are a spiteful person and hiding behind your *made up enemies* You like to create drama around yourself...center of attention my dear.
I might go as far as you are a creaton of HeavenSent.